Tomorrow is the Thanksgiving holiday here in America. It’s already upon my American friends in Japan. While I have some regrets (of the life-long variety), I have had a lot to be thankful for in the last 12 months. In particular, I am thankful that I was able to successfully fund a Kickstarter project which enabled me to return to Tokyo in September and October this year to continue my Tokyo Panic Stories work. And while I was in Tokyo, I was able to get together with some guys I already knew, and meet some new fellows with whom I hope to be friends in years to come.
I don’t have a hell of a lot of friends, and I don’t make them easily. This post is my way of thanking these fine gents for their company and warmth. Cheers, boys…
I didn’t get much sex in Tokyo this year. That is to say, unlike the risqué series of photos I took last year , in 2013 I think I unconsciously decided there were things I wanted to include in my photographic Tokyo explorations other than additional copious evidence of the unabashed Japanese attitude toward retail sexual entertainments. But when I passed this window one sunny September day in Shinjuku, well, I just had to marvel at these sizes and imaginative shapes…
(Picture taken in Kabukichō, Shinjuku, Tokyo on September 20th, 2013)
I passed though Shinjuku several times in September, and once in October. At a particular exit from Shinjuku Station, this man was always there. I don’t know his story, but his life seemed less that perfect. And still people passed him by…
(Picture taken at the east end of Shinjuku Station on October 5th, 2013)
The man was dapper and having a rest while feeding a multitude of birds, not far from Kinokuniya in Shinjuku.
One of the birds included this huge damn raven…
…which didn’t have time to nevermore linger.
(Pictures taken in Shinjuku, Tokyo on September 24th, 2013)
On the streets of Shinjuku today, a character of unknown disposition, purpose, or origin. But pretty damned colorful and determined-looking…
(Picture taken in Tokyo on September 24th, 2013)
You could see he was breathing, and there wasn’t any blood on the ground. Maybe someone drugged the rice at his feet.
A minute or so later he moved his hand to his face and scratched, providing further proof of life. Maybe not a happy life, though.
A man this young and fucked-up at midday is an unusual sight even in Kabukichō. Fortunately he was in a high-traffic area for passersby, who left him to sleep it off.
(Pictures taken in Shinjuku, Tokyo on September 20th, 2013)
of a thousand galaxies,
and it’s all
shining down here
(Pictures taken on Waseda Dori somewhere around Ochiai, I think, on April 13th, 2012. I had been very sick for nearly the entire first two weeks I was in Tokyo. Some kind of lung infection, which I later learned I probably brought with me from California or contracted on the plane as I flew to Japan. On this day, still suffering from a fever and horrible coughing fits, I decided I had to get the hell out of my apartment and do something. So I packed up my cameras, picked a direction, and started walking. I started at Nakano Broadway, and ended up at Shinjuku Station, shooting pictures of basically anything along the way.
It was a good walk. It was a good day to be alive and in Tokyo, and I fully recovered about a day later.)
It is a cliché of great truth: In Tokyo, one of the most crowded and kinetically frenzied cities on Earth, it is easy to be alone. I spent a lot of time alone in Tokyo in 2012—in my apartment, in restaurants, and in seedier parts of the city—during the five weeks in April and May when I was there working on a forthcoming book of photographs and prose. Fortunately, on a handful of occasions I accepted invitations to eat and drink with “gaijin”, mostly Americans, who knew me through Twitter and my heavy involvement with the 2011 Quakebook project.
I don’t make friends easily. I never have. I’m a natural, almost pathological, loner. But I was lucky enough to meet the good people in these pictures and click with each of them in some way. And I have stayed in touch with all these folks through social networks since I got back from Tokyo. I hope that continues for a long, long time. And to the people in my pictures I say: Thanks for making my 2012 trip to Tokyo such a splendid thing.
@loveartblues, an elegant guy wisely taking a break from the ocean of beer at Kamiya Bar.
@kuripyon, the smartest punk-rock-and-roll-engineering chick I’ve ever met. Kamiya Bar.
I met five other people in Tokyo, including this dear friend, but didn’t take their individual pictures. I’m sorry for that, and I hope to correct that mistake the next time we meet in Japan.
She was small.
She was alone.
People passed by, and she just kept dialing the phone.
And I loved her.
I could have jumped from my train,
across the oncoming Shinjuku subway tracks,
and asked her to have soba noodles and cold beer with me
until it was time for breakfast in Tsukiji.
(I’m very fond of this image of a lady little person on the platform at Shinjuku Station. I published it here back in April. The conditions under which I took this photo were horrible. So even though I think it works, I apologize if this picture looks more like a crummy stippled photo-realistic painting instead of a proper photograph. No matter, even at the picture’s full size and grainy, this small woman is one of the most beautiful sights I ever saw in Japan.—Dan)
Sometimes Tokyo is the cigarette you toss
into an ashtray full of garbage and water.
Sometimes Tokyo is the restaurant
you pass by every day but never go in.
Sometimes Tokyo is toys you see in a school display
while walking from Nakano Station to Shinjuku.
(Pictures taken in Nakano-ku and Shinjuku-ku in April, 2012.)
Mulling over the choices I’ve made in life
what it basically comes down to is:
I just happened to look into your camera
while you thought you secretly took a picture of me.
Then we pass each other
on this street in Shinjuku right after the death of all cherry blossoms
and we don’t speak and
we don’t ever see each other again…
I walk like a champion
because this street is mine.
This tree I pass every day
is planted in earth which was once soaked
with the innovative blood of my ancestors
who died here keeping the secrets of Velcro
from the Shogun’s tax collectors.
We are an old clan,
we never married burakumin
like those butchers over in Sanya.
We are a proud clan,
and you need to keep out of my way.
(Photos taken on Otakibashi-dori in Shinjuku, Tokyo in April, 2012)
In Tokyo, things move and change. The light is its own ghost, never knowing where to go or haunt or which shadows to vanquish. The people have a more adjusted purpose, and look where the light takes them.
In Shinjuku, things move and change. You never see the same people twice, or at least never see them in the same light. The light is one of Tokyo’s special wards. It is its own place to be and live, and it moves with you and against you. But it is ever with you.
Near Yotsuya San-chome Station, things move and change. But for a moment the people disappear and the light is free to fully show you what the people left behind. It isn’t that spectacular in some ways. But in the brightness of the early night it could be the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen.
(Pictures taken in Yotsuya San-chome, Tokyo in April, 2012)
On my last day in Tokyo, I encountered this extraordinary-looking woman in Shinjuku Station on the Narita Express train platform. Turns out she and her husband were Americans, going home to New York City after 10 days in Japan.
I asked her “Is this a punk-rock thing, a cosplay thing, an art thing, or just your thing?”
While very graciously allowing me to take her picture, she explained that this was a personal thing, a look she had carefully considered and crafted with a dear female friend from Sweden who has the identical appearance configuration, only in bright green. She said she’s not into cosplay, and gets tired trying to explain that to people.
“That,” I said to her, “Is the most remarkable look. You have kind of a Predator thing going on. And you are also a very pretty woman.”
She laughed at the Predator reference, and thanked me for the compliment. Then the train arrived and we parted ways to the cars in which we had reserved seats.
Later, at Narita Airport, I saw her and her husband boarding a United flight to Newark. The woman and I smiled at each other and waved. An hour later, I boarded a United flight to San Francisco.
Then I left Japan.
I walked east from my lodgings in Nakano, Tokyo last Friday. I had been sick for some days with a bronchial infection.
Not the way I wanted to spend much time here. But there is time. It suspends itself in Tokyo and waits for you.
So when I walked, I ended up at a section of the Kandagawa River. It was an explosion here, of pink in the breeze. I inhaled the color and the sound.
And the things on the ground, the petals, they were like the bits of ticker tape from an alternate reality, the one where we threw the world’s largest parade because the Japanese were the first to land on the moon.
The petals, I had to touch them.
And I’m glad I did.
To have them in my hand, they were soft and dying and wonderful. They blew slowly out of my palm.
They felt like broken silk.